who will be next World Bank President What will they do


As examplar of US anti-multilateralism, Wolfowitz has few friends to call on David Sanger of the New York Times does a good job of providing some of the essential context underlying the quiet battle going on behind closed doors this weekend over Wolfowitz’s future. It’s about Bush and his sabotage of multilateralism, a complaint European officials, and many others, had long before the perverse idea of moving Wolfowitz to the World Bank occurred to anyone.

“At its core,” writes Sanger, “the fight about whether Mr. Wolfowitz should stay on at the bank is a debate about Mr. Bush and his tumultuous relationship with the rest of the world, particularly the bank, the United Nations and the International Atomic Energy Agency.” Bush’s contempt for world opinion was evident not only in his choice of Wolfowitz, but in his insistence on making John Bolton, one of the world’s leading bashers of the UN, the U.S.’s ambassador to the UN, and in his vindictive attempt to force Nobel Peace Prize winner Mohammed El-Baradei out of his job leading the IAEA after he declared there were no “weapons of mass destruction” to be found in Iraq (the Bush administration’s main argument for invading Iraq in the first place).

Sanger reports that Wolfowitz’s management style was widely seen as a microcosm of the Bush White House’s (“Members of the bank’s board from around the world began comparing what they called the murky way in which the bank made some policy decisions to the secretive habits of the Bush administration”).

He also notes that many have commented on the Bush-esque hypocrisy that infects Wolfowitz’s charge against corruption at the World Bank: “In foreign capitals, and among the bank’s staff members, it has been noted that Mr. Wolfowitz’s passion for fighting corruption, which he has said saps economic life from the world’s poorest nations, seemed to evaporate when it came to reviewing lending to Iraq, Pakistan and Afghanistan, three countries that the United States considers strategically vital.”

Sanger concludes by noting that the White House defenses of Wolfowitz have lacked “vigor” – true enough, given that Bush has left it to his standard spokespeople, while the Treasury Department officials, Secretary Henry Paulson and Deputy Tim Adams, have emphasized that the process (with the board) should take its course. He quotes one of the delegates to the spring meetings: “`There is a sense that we’re finally at a moment when Bush needs the world more than the world needs Bush,’ said a senior foreign official who flew into Washington recently for the annual meeting of the bank and the International Monetary Fund. ‘And there’s more than a little of that mixed in this whole argument over Wolfowitz’s fate.’”

Finally, it might be worth commenting on the competition between the different media outlets in covering this story. The New York Times has offered intensive coverage, going well beyond the Washington Post which has been quite lackluster. This is a reversal of the usual situation, given that the NYT, since the departure of Joseph Kahn in 2000, usually makes the international financial institutions an afterthought in carving up its beat assignments, while the Post always has reporters monitoring the situation on 19th Street. Not surprisingly, the UK papers – the Financial Times, The Times, and the Guardian, which presumably have a full compliment of reporters in Washington for the spring meetings, are also very much on top of the story. David Sanger, who used to write about international economics regularly, is also going some distance to recuperating himself after his long stint as a White House correspondent, when he was one of those referred to, justifiably, as court stenographers during the Iraq invasion and its aftermath.

Soren Ambrose ~ April 14, 2007

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